Since taking her place in the California State Senate in 2012, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has become an influential leader in Sacramento, leaving her mark on issues like women’s rights, the fight against climate change, and the crisis of affordability and income inequality that continues to roil the state. Now, with Senator Jackson ineligible to seek a third term, the contest to take her place is in full swing. Three candidates now face off in the race to win her seat in District 19: Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), maternal health provider Anastasia Stone, and Republican telecommunications consultant Gary Michaels.
The Santa Barbara Independent reached out to speak with each candidate and record their thoughts on different policy priorities, their motivation for running, and why they think their previous experiences qualify them for elected office. Of the three candidates, Limón has emerged as a clear frontrunner, with sizable advantages in experience, name recognition, financial resources, and the backing of Senator Jackson herself, who endorsed Limón “enthusiastically” for her “tireless work on behalf of the district and her effectiveness as a legislator.” But both Stone and Michaels believe they have unique qualifications that make them worthy choices for the job.
Monique Limón, California State Assemblymember, Democrat
Monique Limón appears to be the obvious frontrunner in the race. But she pushes back against the idea that she’s the winner by default.
“Some people may be calling me a frontrunner, but I’ve put in the work to get where I am,” said Limón. “People have recognized my work ethic in Sacramento, and I’ve gotten a lot of things done. But even before my time in the State Assembly, I had years of experience fighting for the needs of the people in my district. I worked in the education system, and I worked with various nonprofits, fighting tirelessly for the needs of the people here.”
Limón was raised in Santa Barbara County and spent years working in education as an educator, an assistant director of the McNair Scholars Program at UCSB, and a member of the Santa Barbara Unified School Board, where she won her first election in 2010. During her time in the State Assembly, where she represents the 37th District, Limón has gained attention for her work on environmental issues, women’s issues, and consumer protection. Limón successfully authored a bill, AB 539, that puts caps on interest rates charged by lenders that target low-income families with punitively high rates. She is the chair of the Banking and Finance Committee, and the vice chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.
Anastasia Stone, Maternal Health Worker, Independent
Anastasia Stone is a mother of five who has worked in maternal care, midwifery, education, and foster care. She says she would prioritize education, women’s health, and reforming the foster care system. Stone says she is refusing to take money from special interests and plans to get the word out about her campaign by talking to people about day-to-day issues that resonate with them.
“When I went to Sacramento for the first time, I remember seeing a bunch of people hanging out on the floor of the Capitol and asking who they were, and finding out that they were all lobbyists,” said Stone. “The corruption of the system just sunk in, and I thought, ‘Someone normal should run.’”
Stone said that her experiences navigating the foster care system and issues of women’s health give her unique qualification to hold office. “I’ve spent time on the ground working through the systems people live with, both as a mom and a woman,” said Stone. “I have a reputation for building bridges and getting things done. I’m not a career politician.”
Gary Michaels, Telecommunications Manager, Republican
Gary Michaels pitches himself as someone with experience in the private sector who can offer innovative solutions to the problems that ail Santa Barbara County, especially poverty and skyrocketing housing prices.
“We have an amazing opportunity with tech companies starting to move into Santa Barbara, and I want to harness that new opportunity to bring jobs and innovation to our forgotten cities like Santa Maria,” said Michaels.
While residents of the Bay Area may raise their eyebrows at the belief that a thriving tech economy can alleviate poverty and high housing costs, Michaels said that the presence of UCSB provides a lot of “very talented” young people who could be put to work in the private sector, especially in fields that relate to environmental science.
“For years, I’ve watched the problems of poverty and housing get worse in the district, and Sacramento doesn’t seem to be able to offer anything beyond Band-Aid solutions,” said Michaels. “I promise to always tie accountability measures to funding initiatives, and I will not downshift costs on my constituents.” Asked about Donald Trump, Michaels said that while he understands why some people don’t like him, he thinks that the president has “delivered results.”